B&T’s New Foster Program: CHAMP

One silver lining from the shelter restrictions has been a transition of SFACC volunteers from working with animals in the building to fostering adoptable animals in their homes, which is hugely beneficial for both the animals and shelter staff. To continue reaping the benefits of this shift, the Behavior & Training team at SFACC has developed a custom online program to train volunteers for a new foster program called CHAMP (Caregivers Helping Animals Make Progress).

First, volunteers review an Introductory module, “Caring for Shelter Animals in Your Home,” that covers basic shelter policies and procedures for fostering and will be required of all new CHAMP foster caregivers. Second, volunteers complete a species-specific module on either dog or cat fostering before they become an official CHAMP. The dog and cat modules give an in-depth look at species-specific behavior, SFACC-approved training approaches, and fostering expectations.

The Behavior & Training team has been hard at work developing these modules to prepare new foster families to be successful and kudos to SFACC staff Lauren (LT) Taylor and Ariana Luchsinger. Special thanks to Daniel Quagliozzi of Go Cat Go SF for offering invaluable insight on the behavior of our feline friends and contributing a great deal of the cat-specific knowledge for foster volunteers.

According to Lauren Taylor, Behavior & Training Supervisor, SFACC currently has between 64-70 individuals signed up for emergency/COVID fostering–some have fostered multiple times, some fostered once and fell in love/decided to adopt their foster (‘foster wins’), some are still waiting in the wings for the right match. These individuals have supported us through the most difficult months of COVID and sprang to action when we needed them most.

Right now, 80 individuals have expressed interest in training for the new CHAMP program, and are in the middle of varying levels of onboarding/training. Of those, 27 have completed the Intro. module and either need to retake the quiz before proceeding or have passed the quiz and are awaiting the species-specific modules. New foster applications are coming in almost daily.

You do not need to be a current SFACC volunteer to join CHAMP! You just fill out an application online and wait for us to get back to you about next steps. Response time might be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks depending on shelter staffing.

Fosters working in the CHAMP program will have access to Maddie’s Pet Assistant app, which is available for free and is a great resource for shelters and rescue organizations. The app gives advice on care, reminders on vaccinations, weight-tracking, and other tools to share photos and stories to help animals get adopted.

SFACC’s CHAMP program is a proud recipient of funding from Maddie’s Fund, helping to achieve a no-kill nation. The grant was used to cover foster supplies such as bowls, crates, Kongs, food bins, and enrichment for cats.

Heading Back to Work? Prep Your Pet

Dog looking out a window.
(photo c. Embark)

For the past several months, pets of folks who are working at home during the shelter-in-place have enjoyed the extra attention and company. As people return to work, even part-time, some pets might experience separation anxiety. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a few tips to minimize the stress of this change:

  • Start slowly introducing your pet to a workday routine. Get your pet accustomed to new wake, feeding, and walking times.
  • Practice leaving the house and your pet. Start out leaving for short periods and then gradually extend the time.
  • As you leave, give your pet a small treat to help create positive connections to your leaving.
  • If you see signs of anxiety—such as destructive activity—do not punish your pet. Instead, shorten the time you are away and slowly build up to longer periods. Stay calm when leaving or returning home.
  • Before leaving, engage in play and activity. Burning energy can help keep pets calm and relaxed.
  • If you’re planning on using a pet sitter, dog walker or pet daycare, be cautious. Exposing your pet to others can increase your pet’s and your own risk to COVID-19. Follow protocols put into place by the daycare and do not use the service if you or your pets are sick. Keep cats indoors. Do not put face coverings on pets and do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or any other products not approved for animal use.
  • Dog parks are starting to reopen, but you want to maintain, as best you can, a safe distance between your pet and others. Don’t allow people you don’t know to pet your dog and you shouldn’t pet theirs.
  • Keep your pet occupied during your absence with long-lasting treats, food puzzles and automatic feeders.
  • If you typically used a crate when you were gone but haven’t been using it during the shelter-in-place, now is a good time to explore your options. You can decide to do away with the crate or if you plan to use it, start doing so now, while you’re still at home, putting the dog inside for short periods and giving them rewards. Dogs should not be left in crates for extended periods of time.
  • Look for signs of stress, such as excessive barking or whining, agitation, destructive behavior and inappropriate urination or defecation. Consider setting up a camera so you can see how your pet is doing while you’re gone. You also can then show the behavior to a veterinarian, who can help you figure things out.

Foster Adventures

Freckle-face cutie Scrappy: “He seems really comfortable living here, and has come out of his shell… He absolutely loves getting attention and being around people, even if it’s just me sitting next to him (he makes sure at least part of him is touching me) while I work. He seems more interested in people and dogs than objects/environments, and would rather have a good cuddle session than go for a run. But we still have a lot of fun playing fetch indoors. He’s a wonderful walker (in ideal conditions), and generally quite attentive to me which makes it easier to train him. He’s such a sweet boy and I feel so lucky to be able to look after him during this time!”

Pecan Sandy has been such a joy to have in our home these past 3 weeks! She has perfect manners when we’re making our food, rolls over for belly rubs, cuddles in our lap, and naps with her favorite stuffed toy. She has become much more confident in the house and seems to be overall loving life!”

Nala and Bella…Both of these little ladies have the sweetest of dispositions! Bella (the bigger sister) is more adventurous while Nala (the petite sister) is a bit more reserved. Though they are both on the shy side, they quickly come out of their shells for food and treats! Some of their favorites include romaine lettuce, parsley, cilantro, fennel, pear, strawberries, and, of course, carrots! They love to snuggle together in cozy spots, groom each other, and loaf around, but will explore the house when given room to roam. They are skittish (as prey animals tend to be in general), but allow gentle pets especially while snacking on treats. They’ll thrive in a home that provides continued socialization to help them get comfortable with human companions. They are gentle and completely non-aggressive (no biting, growling, etc.), have not chewed on any non-food items (like wires, furniture, etc.), and are litter-tray trained. They are also pretty much the cutest little furry beings on the planet!

Playful gent Shakespeare is looking for love! His foster says: Shakespeare is a fun-loving and affectionate guy! He has a lot of playful energy and is capable of some high-level gymnastics when he is motivated to catch his toy. He loves to curl up next to his foster for affection and love, which really gets his purr motor going. He enjoys scratching posts and interactive wand play as well as independent game playing with pom poms and mouse-shaped toys. By day, this clever 3 year old cat prefers to be busy and active. By night, this little sweetheart prefers to sleep in his foster’s bed.
Shakespeare can get overstimulated, so he’ll do best with an experienced adopter ready to play, play, play, in an adult only home. Per his previous owner, he’s not a fan of dogs. Shakespeare is FIV+ but is still positively adoptable!

Shaka is easy going and a joy to be around! He is known to spend most of the day curled up in his bed next to one of our desks while we are working, either sleeping or chewing on one of his toys. He’s very loving and affectionate. He often thinks he’s a lap dog and will try to crawl into your lap whenever he can! He is energetic during play and generally well-mannered on walks, usually wanting to stop and sniff though on occasion has shown favorability towards a brisk power walk. Shaka knows “sit” and “come” and has been making some progress with learning “stay” and “down”. Shaka has been very friendly with everyone he meets, dog and human! When he sees a dog on the street he generally gets excited and wants to say hi. He can be a little mouthy during play but is great when given the option to channel his energy into chewing toys. He’s been a well-mannered boy in this home which is quiet to moderate in activity. He’s a smart and loving boy likely to make a great addition to a home prepared with consistency and some structure for his day-to-day.

Chrissy and her adorably huge ears are comfy cozy in her foster home!

Fun Activities for Kids & Adults During SIP

Train your cat to high-five!
You know your cat is smart. They can read your mind and manipulate you to serve their goals. Why not spend some quality quarantine time training them to impress your friends with tricks? If your cat loves treats, you can probably teach them to high-five in no time. A great activity for kids and kitties!

 

         

Match the dog to their person!
For those who enjoy a good coloring book and love dogs, download and print this Dog Activity Book, shared by the SFACC B&T team. Includes, word games and loads of great info about dog behavior. A fun learning tool for kids and adults!